Ellen DeGeneres? Woody Allen? Joe Doyle? The paris Karamazov Brothers? George Burns? Anonymous?

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Dear Quote Investigator: there is a joke based upon the biblical production story that has the well known line “Let there be light”. The beat line that the gag is:

There to be still nothing. However you can see that a whole lot better.

You are watching: In the beginning there was darkness

Two prominent comedians have actually received credit for this humor: Ellen DeGeneres and Woody Allen. Would you please research this topic?

Quote Investigator: Ellen DeGeneres started performing as a comedian in 1980 follow to the biography “Ellen: The actual Story of Ellen DeGeneres” by catalen Tracy. This joke was consisted of in she stand-up plot circa 1983. Yet, interestingly, the jest to be circulating throughout the ahead decade.

The earliest strong match situated by QI showed up in a 1978 newspaper article around a touring firm of the “The 2nd City” improvisational comedy organization. The agency was visiting Michigan State college in eastern Lansing, Michigan come perform and also give a workshop. Joe Doyle to be a member the the comedy troupe, and he yielded a version of the joke: 1

Now Joe Doyle to be an irish priest, making use of rich brogue to review from an initial Chrysanthemums:

“In the beginning, there to be nothing. The mr said, ‘Let over there be light.’ climate there to be still nothing. Yet you might see it.”

This jest have the right to be phrased in numerous different ways which makes it daunting to trace; hence, future researchers might uncover previously instances. Nevertheless, based on current proof QI tentatively gives credit to Joe Doyle.

Below are extr selected citations in chronological order.

The story presented in the Bible’s publication of Genesis differed somewhat from the comical setup employed in the joke. God developed the heaven and also the earth prior to he ignited the light. The King James holy bible translation declared this: 2

In the beginning God produced the heaven and the earth. And the planet was without form, and also void; and darkness to be upon the challenge of the deep. And also the heart of God relocated upon the challenge of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And also God saw the light, the it was good: and God separated the light from the darkness.

In 1964 a columnist in Phoenix, Arizona composed disapprovingly around a locally obtainable comic book which included a satirical version of the creation story. The God figure had a goatee and carried three bolts of lightning. His first attempt to create light failed, but he ultimately succeeded by rubbing pole together: 3

“In the beginning there, was nothing.Nothing, nothing, nothing” the message said.“And then God said, ‘Let there be light!’And there still to be nothing.And then God took two sticks and rubbed castle together.Look in ~ God rub.Rub, God, rub.And God make light and also he looked at it and also said, ‘This is good.’

In 1978 Joe Doyle work the gag throughout a performance through a touring agency of the “The 2nd City” as discussed previously.

The story “Ellen: The actual Story that Ellen DeGeneres” by catalent Tracy presented the storage of DeGeneres worrying her an initial stand-up performance. She claimed “This was more than likely 1980, and also I think it to be someplace in the French Quarter” of new Orleans. 4

In 1983 DeGeneres purchased a van and relocated to mountain Francisco, California i m sorry was critical comedy mecca at the time: 5

“Things simply clicked and people began paying fist to me.”

Ellen conveniently won over society owners and audiences alike v her enhanced confidence and improved material.

In the beginning there to be nothing. God said, “Let there be light!” and also there was light. There to be still nothing, however you can see the a totality lot better.

In 1984 “The Berkshire Eagle” the Pittsfield, Massachusetts released a theater evaluation of “The paris Karamazov Brothers” that performed an plot that an unified juggling v vaudevillian humor. A member that the group ceded an instance of the joke: 6

Put right into their immortal words: “In the beginning there to be nothing. Then I created light. There was still nothing. But at least we might see.”

In 1998 a poster to the newsgroup alt.atheism ascribed the gag come Woody Allen: 7

“In the beginning, there to be nothing. And also God said, ‘Let over there be light.’ and there was light. There was still nothing, yet you can see it a lot better.”—Woody Allen

In 2000 the arsenal “Joke Stew: 1,349 more Hilarious Servings indigenous Today’s sexty Comedians” attributed DeGeneres: 8

In the start there was nothing. God said, “Let there be light!” and also there was light. There was still nothing, but you can see that a entirety lot better.—Ellen DeGeneres

In 2008 “Blind Faith” by Morné Du Toit published the gag and credited Woody Allen: 9

“In the beginning, there to be nothing. And also God said, “Let over there be light.” and also there to be light. There was still nothing, but you might see the a lot of better.”

In 2011 the popular comedian and also actor George Burns got credit in a letter created to the editor that a Santa Clarita, California newspaper. Burns had passed away in 1996: 10

I’m reminded of what the late George Burns said around daylight: “In the beginning, there to be nothing. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and also there to be light. There to be still nothing, however you might see it a entirety lot better.”

In conclusion, QI cautiously provides credit come Joe Doyle for this gag based on the 1978 citation. Ellen DeGeneres and also The flying Karamazov Brothers additionally used the joke, but evidence suggests that it to be circulating beforehand. The linkages to Woody Allen and George Burns room weak.

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Image Notes: Illustration the light through projecting rays native Clandestino in ~ Pixabay. Image has been cropped and also resized.

(Great thanks to Andrew Lin who inquiry led QI to formulate this question and also perform this exploration.)